Photography as Data: Augmentation, Extraction, Objectification

April 9–September 15, 2024

A monochrome art photo of a hand, surrounded by geometrically arranged wood.
Kenji Nakahashi (Japanese, 1947 - 2017), My Left Hand, 1991, Gelatin silver print; printed 1992, Anonymous gift in memory of Kenji Nakahashi, 2022.42.12

This exhibition examines the ways in which photography has been read, used, and manipulated as data through objects from the Loeb’s permanent collection. How do these photographs, most of which predate digital technology by decades, relate to data? How are they read as data? How do they reflect upon practices of collecting data? And what do they tell us about how we are captured in and as data? While today we typically associate the relationship between photography and data with servers, digital pixels, and online data mining, this history stretches back to photography’s earliest inventions. We argue that photography has always served as a technology for the augmentation of reality, allowing the human eye to overcome the limitations of vision, and for the extraction of information about people, places, and cultures that are rendered objects of study and consumption.

This project is co-organized by Jessica D. Brier, curator of photography, and Anna Mayer, visiting assistant professor of German Studies. It was developed with students enrolled in the fall of 2023 Vassar course “Of States and Their Terrorists,” offered by Professor Mayer and cross-listed in the departments of German Studies and Media Studies. Through close looking and object-based research, the students contributed ideas, text, and questions.

The exhibition is presented in two complementary parts: Part 1 opens on April 9, 2024 in the Hoene Hoy Photography Gallery, a space dedicated to exhibiting photography from the Loeb’s permanent collection, ensuring that photographs are always on view. Part 2 opens on April 25, 2024 in the downstairs galleries. Both remain on view until September 15, 2024.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Hoene Hoy Photography Fund.

To learn more, download the exhibition brochure (PDF, 3.4 MB)

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